Angola opposition concedes defeat

September 9, 2008 12:00 am

, LUANDA, September 9 – Angola’s opposition party UNITA acknowledged defeat in last week’s legislative election, as the ruling MPLA savoured an overwhelming win in the country’s first post-war election.

"After about 80 percent of valid votes have been counted, despite all that has happened, the leadership of UNITA accepts the results of the elections," said UNITA president Isaisa Samakuva, Angolan state news agency Angop reported.

Samakuva added that he hoped the ruling leftwing MPLA party "would govern in the interest of all Angolans."

With more than three quarters of the votes counted, the MPLA had around 80 percent of the votes, the Angolese electoral committee said earlier Monday.

The former rebel movement Union for the Total Independence of Angola, the opposition UNITA, had won about 10 percent.

The former rebel movement had tried to contest the vote because of its chaotic start in some areas of Luanda but the electoral commission rejected its claim.

The historic vote represented a sweeping victory for President Jose Eduardo dos Santos’ Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) in an election to which international observers gave qualified approval.

African Union monitors on Monday hailed the vote as "free and fair". Earlier observers from the 15-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) said the vote was "peaceful, free, transparent and credible" and reflected "the will of the people".

"The elections were transparent, people voted freely and we have not seen any violence nor intimidation during the campaign," EU observer mission chief Luisa Morgantini said.

However, the official EU mission report on the poll criticised organisational weaknesses, procedural inconsistencies and an uneven playing field for candidates.

Voting in the first election since the 27-year civil war ended in 2002 began on Friday but had to be extended to Saturday because of delays and a lack of election registers in many polling stations.

UNITA’s unsuccessful challenge to the election had contested the conduct of the Luanda vote.

The capital bore the brunt of the election chaos with some polling stations not opening at all and others missing ballot papers and voter lists.

But the electoral commission said UNITA did not have enough evidence to support its claims.

Before conceding the election, UNITA said it would ask the constitutional court to rule on the matter.

The former rebel movement’s rejection of the results of the last election held in 1992 during a lull in the war, plunged Angola back into conflict that raged for another decade.

Regardless, the state-owned Jornal de Angola’s headline read "MPLA eliminates the competition," as the party, in power for three decades, claimed victory.

"The results are in line with our expectations," MPLA spokesman Norberto dos Santos told the newspaper.

The parliamentary elections were seen as a popularity test for veteran leader Jose Eduardo dos Santos ahead of presidential elections slated for next year.

The MPLA spokesman said the victory was due to the dedication of the party’s three million supporters.

"In every neighbourhood, in every village our supporters are there nearly every day like a priest at a Sunday service," Norberto dos Santos told the newspaper.

The southwestern African nation has a booming economy driven by vast oil and diamond riches that have fuelled double-digit growth.

However, more than two-thirds of its people remain mired in poverty, living on less than two dollars a day.


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